May 19

New analysis by home purchase plan provider, Gatehouse Bank, has revealed that despite Brexit trying its best to cause turbulence in the UK property market, homes are actually selling quicker in 1 in 5 towns and cities.

According to the findings, across the UK, homes on the market have been on sale two weeks longer than a year ago on average (162 vs 148 days) but the slowdown is noticeable by its absence in 19.6% of areas.

Gatehouse analysed time-on-the-market data from Home.co.uk and found that property markets sped up in 24 of the 122 towns and cities in the survey, with properties for sale in Oldham marketed for 27.7% less time than a year earlier on average. Oldham was followed by Stirling, with a drop of 24.5% to 114 days and Sale, Gtr Manchester, where time on the market has fallen 19.5% to 95 days.

The most rapid markets are Rugby (85 days), Sale in Greater Manchester, (95 days) and Edinburgh (97 days). The most sluggish are Aberdeen (320 days), Sunderland (279 days) and Durham (264 days).

The biggest slow down has been witnessed in Padstow where homes have been on the market 56.6% longer than a year ago — 238 days on average1. Woking homes have been on the market for 50% longer and in Hemel Hempstead properties have been marketed for 48.7% longer.

Charles Haresnape, CEO of Gatehouse Bank, said: “A slowdown in sales across the country reflects the wait-and-see approach exacerbated by these marathon Brexit negotiations but it’s not a reality for everyone.

Robust demand means buyers across a healthy cross section of Britain are ensuring homes aren’t hanging around for long in relative terms. We know that first-time buyers are still active and that’s thanks in no small part to stamp duty reliefs and Help To Buy. This new blood is helping to keep the market turning over, not just in the fastest markets but equally so in those areas where a slight slowdown means they are being encouraged to drive a harder bargain.”

May 19

According to the latest research from national estate agent, Jackson-Stops, standing at an average £1,075,889, old rectories are the least expensive quintessentially English village home on a price per square foot basis.
After analysing the price premium of six typical English village property types, the firm found that at £245 per square foot, properties once home to clergymen offer the best bang for your buck. However, sitting just £1 behind are manor houses, which, on average, value at £246 per square foot despite commanding the highest average sale price (£1,431,944).
On the opposite side of the spectrum, barn conversions prove the most expensive per square foot (£316), regardless of them often boasting large, open-plan living spaces. Barn conversions ranked as the second least expensive village home at £939,070, yet are also the second smallest, offering on average 2,963 square feet of space.
Unsurprisingly, manor houses continue to command the highest price premium of all English village homes analysed – more than six times greater than the UK average house price according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Despite being on average almost 1,500 square feet smaller than a manor house, farmhouses are the second most expensive property type – almost five times as much as the average home.
The timeless chocolate box cottage is the least expensive property type at £606,886. With an average square footage of 1,985, the cottage is the second most expensive property on a price per square foot basis.

The most popular quarter for an English village home to sell is in quarter three, with manor houses, barn conversions, farmhouses, and chocolate box cottages all selling particularly well during August. Mill conversions however prove most popular with buyers during the first half of Q1, with the majority of this property type selling through Jackson-Stops in January.
Nick Leeming, Chairman of Jackson-Stops, comments: “Despite there being uncertainty in some pockets of the UK property market as a result of the current political climate, the English love affair with a quintessential country home remains. While the country market may not be as buoyant as it was a few years ago, beautiful homes in bucolic countryside, which are accurately priced, will always achieve strong interest and will continue to command significant price premiums.
Despite ranking as the first and third most expensive property type respectively, it was interesting to see manor houses and old rectories offering the best value for money per square foot. The vicar was often considered the most important individual in the village, only second to the lord or lady of the manor, and so the homes do tend to offer ample proportions. However, the data shows that, at around £245.50 per square metre, buying a manor house or an old rectory is much more realistic than it may have once been.
It’s not surprising to see that the majority of the English village property types tend to sell during the summer months, where potential buyers are able to view their striking and historic features and beautiful landscaped gardens in all their glory during the longer daylight hours. However, I was surprised to see a spike in popularity for mill conversions during the winter months. This tends to be a quieter period for the UK property market, however branches across the country from Shaftesbury to York have agreed sales on converted mills throughout December to February.”

May 19

What would you choose if you had a spare £1.2m lying around?

Estate agent comparison site, GetAgent.co.uk, has calculated the current average house price for a flat in Kensington and Chelsea (£1,161,580) and compared it to the average house price for a detached property across the rest of the UK.

So where across the UK can you buy a house (or eight), for the cost of a top end London flat?

Across the UK you could buy at least two homes for the price of a Kensington flat, however, with an average detached house price of £137,742, prime central London flat buyers could pick up eight homes on the Western Isles for the same budget, enough to form their own street.

While this was the highest across the UK, Burnley, County Durham, Blaenau Gwent, Port Talbot, East Ayrshire, Blackpool, Hyndburn, Stoke and Dumfries and Galloway were all home to a detached house prices between £156-£182k, meaning for the price of a high end London flat you could pick up six to seven detached homes in each area!

But what about the UK’s major cities?

With an average detached house price of £236,765, the price of a high-end London flat could secure you nearly five homes in Nottingham (4.9). This was also the case in Liverpool (4.4) and Sheffield (4.1).

You could pick up as many as three homes in Leicester, Newcastle, Glasgow, Manchester, Plymouth, Leeds, Aberdeen, Birmingham and Southampton on the same budget.

Or you could settle for two in Edinburgh and Bristol.

Despite some of the highest property prices in the UK, you could pick up a detached home in Oxford, Cambridge and London for the price of a flat in Kensington and Chelsea.

Colby Short, founder and CEO of GetAgent, commented: “Getting a foot on the ladder is a momentous task for many and so it’s quite mind-boggling when you consider how many houses you can buy in other great parts of the UK for the price of just one flat in Kensington and Chelsea.

While much has been made about the decline of the capital’s top-end market as a result of wider political headwinds, it goes to show how crazy parts of the London have become over the years when a flat alone is commanding such sums.

I think it’s fair to say that it remains a completely different world for the average UK homebuyer and any talk of price growth decline across the capital’s top tiers of late will probably be met with little sympathy from most.”

May 19

New figures released by SpareRoom have shown that the average cost of renting a room in the UK has increased by £15 per month since the same period last year – up from £567 in 2018 to £582 in 2019.
House prices may be falling but rents are on the up in all regions of the UK. London, Northern Ireland and West Midlands have seen the largest jump, with rents up 4%. Despite its proximity to the capital, the south east has witnessed the lowest growth (just 2%), followed by the south west at 3%.
A closer look at the UK’s 50 largest towns & cities reveals that the highest surge in rental costs are in the north of England, with Lancashire’s Preston taking first place. Rents in the city have increased by 8% (£30) since last year, bringing the average rent to £378 pcm. York and Stockport follow with increases of 7% each. At the other end of the scale, Southend-On-Sea, Aberdeen, and West Bromwich sit at the bottom of the table with decreases of -5%, -3%, and -3%, respectively.
Oxford follows London as the UK’s second most expensive city, with average monthly rents of £572 – a modest 1% rise since last year. The university towns of Reading and Edinburgh place third and fourth, with average rents of £530 and £519 each. Conversely, the cheapest rents can be found in Belfast (£312), Sunderland (£319) and Middlesbrough (£327).

In London, contrast to the traditional north-south divide, an east-west divide is now visible with many of capital’s cheapest rents located east and south-east, whilst the more expensive ones are found in the west and south-west. Unsurprisingly, central St Pauls (EC4) is the most expensive location to rent in (£1,336), despite costs decreasing by -7% over the past year. This is closely followed by South Kensington / Knightsbridge (SW7) (£1,177) and the Stand / Holborn (WC2) (£1,157).
However, there’s still hope for those wanting to rent in London on a tighter budget, with 17 areas in the city available for under £600, including Abbey Wood which offers the cheapest average rent (£531), Manor Park (£541) and Chingford (£542).
Matt Hutchinson, Communications Director for SpareRoom says: “House prices may have stalled but rents are on the up again. The ongoing Brexit mayhem might be putting people off buying or selling but renters still need to move. With that in mind It’s no surprise London continues to show solid growth, but if this 4% rise is a reflection of what’s to come, we’ll see renters hit their affordability ceiling and be forced further out the capital, especially as Crossrail, when it’s finally complete, likely to drive rents up in the east and south east of London.”

Apr 19

The latest data and analysis from UK Finance has revealed that, during March, mortgage approvals by the main high street banks were up 9.1% against March 2018.
According to the figures, approvals for home purchases were 9.3% higher, remortgage approvals were 11.1% higher and approvals for other secured borrowing were 1.7% higher year-on-year. However, UK Finance was keen to point out that March 2018 was a "particularly subdued" month for total mortgage approvals.
Gross mortgage lending across the residential market in March 2019 was £20 billion, 0.5% lower than the same month in 2018.
Gareth Lewis, commercial director of property lender MT Finance, says: "These numbers come as no surprise - gross lending is subdued because the first quarter has been stagnant as a result of the Brexit wait. There was never going to be a huge growth in lending.
However, as far as the second quarter of the year and beyond is concerned, if the levels of activity we are seeing are anything to go by, the picture may be changing. With Brexit pushed back, far enough away for people to forget about it a little, and with fewer column inches in the papers, this is all a positive as it stops people from worrying about it too much. They are getting on with life, looking at opportunities to improve their portfolios - from an investment point of view, Brexit is getting less attention now, which has to be a good thing.
The one thing that is quite encouraging is that more people are paying back their credit card debt; when credit card debt is creeping up, it means people are living beyond their means but in this case it’s healthy that people are paying that debt down."

Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, says: "Mortgage approvals for home purchase are always a useful lead indicator of future market activity and these are no exception. They confirm what we have been seeing on the ground and in other surveys - that transactions are holding up reasonably well despite political and economic distractions as might be expected at this time of year.
However, it is still tough to find common ground between even realistic buyers and sellers, and sales are certainly taking considerably longer, not least because as we are finding, buy-to-let investors have not been replaced completely by first-time buyers. The picture is very patchy and can vary considerably between areas which are quite close together and between London and elsewhere."
Jonathan Harris, director of mortgage broker Anderson Harris, says: "Until there is greater clarity over Brexit, many people are inevitably going to put decisions to buy and sell property on hold. The number of mortgage approvals is up on March last year but that was a relatively subdued month for lending. That said, lenders are keen to keep lending and have funds available at competitive rates for those buyers brave enough to take the plunge."
John Goodall, CEO of Landbay, commented: “It’s been a slow start to the year for mortgage lending, and this month doesn’t buck the trend. But while Brexit-led uncertainty doesn’t show signs of abating, we are likely to see growth in the coming months. Many borrowers will be nearing the end of two-year mortgage deals secured in the lows of 2017, and they could be in for a rate shock in the coming months.”
Vikki Jefferies, proposition director at Primis, said: “As lenders continue to diversify their product offerings to keep up with consumer demand, the combination of innovation, consumer confidence, and ongoing broker support should mean that the mortgage market is well placed to continue growing – in spite of any political uncertainties the rest of the year may bring.
Indeed, the last few months have proved just how resilient the market is. Mortgage networks will still have a key role to play here, ensuring brokers have the support they need to best serve clients, no matter their circumstances.”

Apr 19

With the UK property market now entering its busiest period of the year, leading property finance specialists, One77 Mortgages, has chalked down some top tips for homebuyers when it comes to securing the best deal on a mortgage.

While the affordability of mortgage products remains at almost record lows, there are still plenty of ways to make your mortgage even more cost-effective, although your broker might not always disclose these methods.

While some tips will save you money from the get-go, it really is a case of spending money to make money with some of the others. When combined they should place you in the best position when buying in the current market.

Deposit thresholds
More often than not, increasing your deposit by just a small amount can boost you into the next Loan to Value band, meaning a better rate and even potentially less onerous credit scores with lenders. Always work on 5% increments as these are where the best deals are for your price band so based on the current average house price, rather than borrowing 9% (£20,533), stretching the additional few thousand more to a 10% deposit of £22,815 will be far more beneficial in the long run.

Seek a no-fee mortgage broker
Pretty simple but many of us fail to do it. All brokers are paid commission on the product they sell you, but around 80% will also charge an additional fee - typically £500. May seem minute in the grand scheme of buying a house, but it all adds up.

Don’t restrict your options
It’s common knowledge that your bank isn’t the best place to start as they only offer their rates and products. But you would be surprised as to how many brokers and advisers can only offer products from a restricted panel of lenders. As a customer, this means you are missing out on potentially the best deal for you so make sure your broker has access to the entire marketplace.

Get your personal details in order
Such a simple one, but if you’ve failed to update documents to your married name, or you aren’t registered to your current home address, the lender’s computer will literally say no as it won’t be able to find you. This is a shortcut route to having your application declined.

Electoral roll
Once your details are correctly registered, register for the electoral roll. You might not know it, but this has a huge bearing on the scoring system of lenders credit. If you aren’t registered it’s another minor little detail that can see you fall at the first hurdle of a mortgage application.

Forward your post!
The £60 it costs to have your mail forwarded for a year will be the best money you’ve ever spent without even realising it. This doesn’t necessarily apply to your mortgage but it will save you money. All too often a client moves house and ended up with a default notice on their phone bill or credit card as they’ve not received the reminder and forgot to pay it.

With the cost required to get on the ladder, many of us can be forgiven for skipping the add ons a broker may suggest. If there’s one cost you don’t want to skip on, it’s life cover. Understandably, many of us today can only get on the ladder with the help of our partners as a joint income is required. However, if the worst were to happen and illness or even death strikes, the lack of any form of protection cover can result in the whole deck of cards coming crashing down immediately. This is the last thing you need in this situation, so make sure your life cover is in place and up to date.

Again, sounds obvious right? But many of us plod along without even considering it. If your mortgage product allows overpayments - make them! You would be surprised at how much even a small overpayment can make on a monthly basis when it comes to the total interest over the lifetime term of your mortgage.

Lock it in
We’re currently in the middle of an artificially low, interest rate cycle and mortgage product affordability is close to record lows. Great news but make sure you lock in on a fixed rate mortgage to make the best of the current climate. A longer term of a fixed five-year rate is probably the best option however a three year fixed might be a happy middle ground for many between a two and five-year product. However, be aware of any 10 year plus fixed rate products. The fee might be great but over the years we’ve seen best-laid plans fall by the wayside and clients are then hit with huge early exit fees if they need to move or pay their mortgage early.

Working overtime
Any overtime worked can be beneficial towards mortgage eligibility but try and ensure that this overtime is consistent as possible. If there are drastic swings in the hours worked, lenders will often work from the lowest figure when deciding your position in the market.

Knock them down
It’s a buyers market at the moment and if you have the confidence, income and deposit, now is the time to get a great deal on a property by negotiating as hard as you can. As many buyers remain sitting on the fence, sellers are having to adjust their price expectations and the best way to reduce your mortgage costs are to get the property you want for a lower price in the first place! The average reduction is about 10% of the asking price, so use this as a benchmark and push for 15% or more.

Credit score
If you’re looking to buy right now and your credit score is no good, then you’ve probably already had a few lenders slam the door in your face. Your credit score is everything to a lender in this day and age and poor payment history or a low score will put you at a severe disadvantage from the offset. Do all you can to cultivate a healthy score starting now and as most lenders base their judgement on Experian, it’s worth the small investment to make sure your reading from the same hymn sheet rather than one of the free credit score providers.

Also, know the implications of your deposit/credit score mix. A much smaller deposit will require an almost impeccable credit score. While a poor score doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t get a mortgage, you will struggle to achieve ‘high street’ rates but a good broker, like One77, should be able to help you find a product.

Managing Director of One77 Mortgages, Alastair McKee, commented:

“The mortgage market can be a minefield of jargon, small print clauses and confusing figures, and so it’s no surprise that for many homebuyers and first-time buyers, in particular, the mortgage product they opt for isn’t always the best suited for their situation.

"But with a little bit of research, there are plenty of things you can do to secure a much better deal and make your mortgage work for you, not the other way around.

"Even the smallest things such as the electoral roll or having your documents correctly registered can influence a lenders decision and while we’re currently enjoying a period of great mortgage affordability, this doesn’t automatically mean you will be accepted.”

Apr 19

Whether you want to replace a single broken roof tile or build an extension, the correct specification of materials is vital to any work on listed and conservation area buildings. But you’re not on your own: there are set procedures to follow and experts who can guide you through them and help you assess everything you can – and can’t – do.

Can I extend a listed building?
It is possible to extend a listed building, but you need to apply for a special form of permission called Listed Building Consent. Permitted Development rights do not apply to listed buildings and buildings in conservation areas, so you will also need to apply for Householder Planning Consent.

“Because there are no Permitted Development rights, standard loft conversions with box dormers are completely out of the question,” Kevin Clarke says. Any extension must enhance the existing building and not detract from the heritage value and historic elements associated with the house.

Kevin explains that any extension should be subservient to the original house. “This usually, but not exclusively, means it should be small and to the rear of the property,” he says. “The local planning authority and Historic England [or your local equivalent] will also expect materials and fenestration [windows] to match the existing house.”

If a proposed extension affects any trees on your property, be aware that trees in conservation areas are likely to be subject to Tree Preservation Orders. If you want to carry out work on trees that are not yet the subject of a Tree Preservation Order, you must give the local authority something called Notification of Proposed Works to Trees in Conservation Areas.

Does an extension have to be in the same style as the original building?
A modern extension may be considered acceptable, but there are strict caveats, Kevin says. “The design must be of an exceptionally high standard. You will need to prove to the authorities that it’s an improvement on a more traditional alternative.”

Conservation officers can vary in their opinion about how best to extend listed buildings, as Denis Hayes explains: “Some look for something in keeping with what’s already there. Others believe a modern extension that contrasts with the original building and doesn’t seek to replicate it is more sympathetic. It’s subjective and you should seek advice about what might be most successful in your local area.”

What about repairing or replacing windows?
“Original windows tend to be single glazed with a distorted or unperfected look,” Lior Brosh says. “Therefore, the council will assess the impact of any replacement or repair. It’s very likely they’ll ask for the replacement to be like for like.” This means the colour, material and profiles should be identical to the original windows.

“You need to be careful,” Denis says. “You can get modern replicas that mimic single-glazed sashes, but the frames are almost always too chunky and are often refused by conservation officers.

“In that instance,” he continues, “it’s always seen as better to repair than replace. You may be able to upgrade the existing glazing to improve the performance, but keep the same frame. Whatever you choose will need to be approved by your local conservation officer.”

Are there other glazing options?
“The most common method to enhance acoustics and thermal buffering [insulation] in a listed building is to add secondary glazing behind the original windows,” Kevin says. This solution increases performance without changing the exterior appearance.

“But there are many high-quality heritage-style double-glazed options that are considered acceptable,” he says. “Quite often, Heritage England [or your local equivalent] and heritage officers in local planning authorities acknowledge that the existing fabric of the building is no longer fit for purpose. In this case, they will often approve an upgraded window or fenestration grouping on the assumption the aesthetics are on a like-for-like basis.”

Why is damp a particular issue in listed buildings?
“Many period properties suffer from damp simply because of their age and the constant movement of the building,” Lior says. “Newer listed buildings might have a damp-proof membrane or damp course that over time has broken in one or more places.”

Once there’s a break, he says, the brick becomes a sponge and absorbs water. “If there’s no proper ventilation, bacteria can start growing into mould and rot, which can also affect human health,” he says. It’s very common and treatable, but must be tackled as soon as possible.

A lot of Britain’s historic housing stock, however, was built before modern plastics and damp courses were introduced into the construction industry and, as a result, can suffer from moisture penetrating through and rising up from the foundations.

“All old buildings were built to be breathable, with plenty of passive ventilation,” Denis explains. “They are what’s known as ‘hygroscopic’ in nature, meaning that any moisture is absorbed by the walls and released slowly over time.”

Therefore, be wary of introducing modern materials, such as insulation and vapour barriers, into older buildings, he says. “They can prevent air flow and ventilation, altering the performance of the building and causing major damage, including damp and decay.”

Kevin adds, “Many listed buildings have basements or cellars that have not been tanked or water-proofed internally, which subsequently causes damp. Trying to resolve damp issues like this on listed buildings can be costly and time-consuming.”

The correct specification of materials is vital, Denis says. “Engage with an architect as early as possible to discuss what is the most appropriate approach when upgrading a listed building element.”

What do I need to bear in mind if I want to repair or replace roofs, chimneys, guttering or drainpipes?
“If the roof is made from a particular natural slate or the guttering from cast steel, you’d need to source the exact same product,” Denis says. “This can be expensive, both in material costs and the specialist labour required.”

It’s important that no material changes are made to the exterior of a listed building that alter it from its original state, he says.

“In a conservation area, a chimney needs to remain untouched, because it forms part of the streetscape,” Denis continues. “Chimneys are also often integral to the whole structure of the building. Many older properties have shallow foundations and the whole thing settles into the ground over time. As a result, removing the chimney could impact the structural integrity of a historic building. It’s always best to consult a structural engineer prior to carrying out any works involving a chimney.”

How do I insulate a listed building for energy efficiency?
“It’s often incredibly difficult to do this,” Kevin says. “While windows can be upgraded on a like-for-like basis, walls, floors and roofs are trickier.

“Older listed buildings are unlikely to have a cavity to allow insulation to be pumped into the walls,” he says. “External insulation is ruled out because it would alter the aesthetics of the building. Dry-lining the walls internally is likely to be impossible, as it would require skirting boards, architraves and cornicing to be removed to achieve full coverage of the wall.”

Alternatively, look at improving insulation elsewhere, Denis suggests. “You can, for instance, upgrade loft insulation to reduce heat loss without any impact on original features.”

What about draught-proofing?
“Draught-proofing is one of the most cost-effective and least intrusive ways of improving the comfort of occupants and reducing the energy used for heating,” Denis says, “and there’s little or no change to a building’s appearance. It also has the added benefit of reducing noise and keeping out dust.

“You can draught-proof the windows throughout,” he says. “Research has shown that this can reduce air leakage by at least 33%, significantly reducing the heating requirement needed for a room.”

Can I do anything about draughty floors?
“If you need to insulate a wood floor because of draughts, the local planning authority will require you to carefully number and set aside the floorboards,” Lior says. “You’ll need to install the insulation without any damage to the floor joists and then carefully put the boards back in their original location.”

“Obtain professional advice on this beforehand,” Kevin advises. “This will ensure the process won’t adversely affect the thermal balance and breathability of the house or create condensation issues.”

“Whatever you have in mind for your listed building,” Lior concludes, “make sure you have all the drawings and information describing the work you want to carry out, so the local planning authority can assess and guide you through what can and what can’t be done.”

Apr 19

On Monday 12th November, BBCs latest Panorama investigation focused on the impact of the controversial Universal Credit, and most crucially the housing element.

The programme revealed the extent of the rent arrears problem as a result of changes to the benefits system. Paul Shamplina, founder of Landlord Action, together with Mick Roberts, one of the UK’s largest Housing Benefit landlords, join other industry experts in calling on the government to act now and scrap direct payments to tenants of the housing element of Universal Credit, before the situation worsens.

Under the old system, housing allowance was paid direct to councils or private landlords. Now, in order to mirror the world of work and encourage people to be more independent, Universal Credit (UC) payments are made direct to claimants. However, when combined with the cuts in benefits, tenants are under increasing financial pressure, evidenced by the 55% rise in evictions of council tenants compared to the same time last year. Panorama revealed the average rent arrears for UC claimants across the UK stands at £663 versus £263 on the old system, nearly two and half times more.

According to Paul Shamplina, founder of Landlord Action, the changes are exacerbating the housing shortage by forcing private landlords to move away from letting to tenants in receipt of Universal Credit. In the last year, 61% of private landlords with tenants on UC have seen them go into arrears.

Paul says: “It’s a deal breaker for landlords and yet the councils don’t have enough houses to house homeless people. We saw on Panorama that, in the last year, Flintshire Council alone has seen an 85% reduction in the number of private landlords on their books willing to rent to UC tenants. When you roll that out across the rest of the country you can see why we have such a desperate housing shortage. The system used to benefit tenants, by providing more accommodation, as well as landlords, who were guaranteed timely rent with no void periods. Now it benefits no-one. The most vulnerable tenants are being left behind, forced to use an online system which many can’t access, and landlords are having to start eviction proceedings as a last resort.”

Mick Roberts, 40, has been a private landlord for more than 20 years. He has always let his properties to Housing Benefit tenants but is now having to consider only letting to private tenants.

He comments: “I have loved letting to housing benefit tenants over the years and formed great relationships with many of my tenants, but I’m sad to say I can no longer do it as a direct result of Universal Credit. As an example, I have four tenants in Nottingham in receipt of housing benefit who have rented from me for over 16 years. They have NEVER had arrears. They have all been moved to Universal Credit, and now they are all in arrears! That’s 100% failure rate. I believe sorting the housing element would solve a large proportion of problems.”

Panorama’s investigation appeared to echo what many industry experts has been saying for some time - the majority of tenants do not want direct payments because they openly admit they struggle to budget.

Alok Sharma MP, Minister of State for Employment, argued that UC is working well, that there have been lessons learnt in the process but that “we have is a simpler system which people understand and ultimately makes sure they get into work fast, stay in work longer and earn more.”

Mick Roberts vehemently disagrees with this: “UC has to be applied for online. I have a tenant who doesn’t even know how to go online or have access. They are not coming out to see the people at ground level. If they spoke to the tenants that are affected by this, as I have, they would realise.”

Paul Shamplina adds: “I’ve raised my concerns over the increasing complexity of the scheme which, in many cases, means even staff assessing Universal Credit claims are making mistakes on an all too regular basis to the detriment of tenants and landlords. Over the next few years, thousands more families will move across to UC as the Full Service rollout expands, bringing with it even more complicated cases and further challenges for DWP staff.

Unless changes are made now, housing stock will decrease further, and homelessness will increase. At present, direct payments to landlords are only considered in certain crisis situations. This needs to change and tenants and landlords need the option to have the housing element paid direct to the landlord.”

Full story below


Apr 19

The Equity Release Council have released their Spring 2019 Market Report revealing a soaring popularity of the product across all regions of the UK.

According to today's report, over the course of 2018, homeowners over-55 years of age accessed 50p of housing wealth for every £1 of savings withdrawn through flexible pension payments, highlighting the increasing role of property wealth as a supplementary source of later life funds.

As product options continue to expand – with H2 2018 seeing the first regular-income paying products launch to consumers – the lifetime mortgage market saw the biggest annual increase in new loans compared to other mortgage market segments for a third successive year. Buoyed by continued growth across all UK regions, lifetime mortgages are now estimated to account for around a third of all mortgages taken out by homeowners from their mid-50s onwards, compared to less than a fifth ten years ago.

Between July and December 2018, 43,879 over-55 homeowners accessed money from the value of their homes, including 24,907 new plans agreed.

However, while total annual lending activity grew for a seventh consecutive year to reach £3.94bn in 2018, the average amounts of property wealth withdrawn remained broadly stable – indicating that growth is a result of broader uptake rather than increasing loan sizes.

The Council’s analysis suggests consumer demand for equity release is rising across the UK, with double-digit growth in the uptake of lifetime mortgages visible across every region. Over the last five years, London and southern regions – East of England (158%), the South East (143%) and South West (99%) – have experienced some of the strongest growth in consumer demand.

More recently, the Midlands and Northern Ireland have come to the fore, with the East Midlands (26%), West Midlands (20%) and Northern Ireland (21%) seeing some of the greatest increase in demand for lifetime mortgages between 2016/17 and 2017/18.

At the start of 2019, the range of product options that meet Equity Release Council standards – backed by product safeguards and independent legal advice alongside regulated financial advice – had doubled to 221 in the space of a year. Over half (52%) of product options offer downsizing protection, up from 42% a year earlier. The range of options allowing customers to make regular interest payments - helping to reduce the overall cost of unlocking housing wealth - also increased to 45 in January 2019.

These features and flexibilities have had broad appeal across the market with one in four (25%) new plans taken out during the second half of 2018 allowing customers to make interest payments, 27% featuring downsizing repayment options and 87% allowing customers to make voluntary partial repayments with no early repayment charge.

The second half of 2018 also saw the introduction of regular income lifetime mortgages, providing monthly payments to customers’ bank accounts in the style of pension products to help meet ongoing costs and supplement other sources of income.

New and returning customer trends

The report also shows prudent measures are in place by lenders to keep consumers’ withdrawals of housing wealth in proportion to their age and potential longevity – offering an average maximum loan to value (LTV) of 18.5% for those aged 55 compared to 31.5% aged 70 and 47.1% at 90.6

Jointly held plans continued to make up the majority of new plans in H2 2018. Across single plans, women accounted for a greater share of market activity than men, with more than double the number of single plans taken out by women than men in H2 2018.

Returning drawdown activity increased by 29% year-on-year, broadly in line with the increase in new drawdown products agreed over the last two years. This suggests that growth in drawdown activity was due to more individuals holding these products, rather than individuals taking more frequent drawdowns.

The number of existing customers seeking further advances (extensions of their plans) was also lower in H2 2018 than a year earlier.

David Burrowes, Chairman of the Equity Release Council comments: “2018 saw equity release enter the mainstream of financial services as an increasingly popular way to meet important and diverse social needs in later life. Flexible options to access housing wealth are helping the nation’s growing population of older homeowners to fund lifestyle purchases, satisfy daily needs, support long-term financial planning or assist their families.

As the demand for equity release grows, so does the need for quality advice. It is vital that consumers have access to professional support that considers short and long-term needs, the broader retirement picture and the role of family in decision-making. Products recognised by the Council remain the only route which guarantees product safeguards, regulated and qualified financial advice and independent legal counsel to help identify whether they fit a customer’s later life needs.

Equity release is not a ‘silver bullet’ for every retirement need, but a growing number of homeowners are finding it can be a solution to meet a range of financial goals.”

Will Hale, CEO at Key, comments: “Today’s report shows an industry that is thriving as it steps up to meet increasing demand by providing innovative new products with features to meet the needs of an ever more diverse range of customers. That 50p is released for every £1 taken out in flexible pension payments clearly highlights the important role that housing equity is already playing in retirement finances.

Older homeowners have considerable property wealth tied up in their houses which is enabling them to transform their own standard of living in retirement as well as to support other family members. Over a quarter (27%) use some or all of the money they release to help family and friends. This growth in gifting underlines how the market has changed with customers increasingly able to use housing equity address a wide range of needs and wants in later life.

Equity release is not right for everyone but if housing equity is a retiree’s largest asset it is vital that they at least consider the role it might play. Key to this is independent specialist advice which will help to ensure that they receive the most benefit from their property wealth and use it in the most appropriate way, whether they are helping families, improving their own homes or clearing debts.”

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Apr 19

The latest data and analysis from ARLA Propertymark has revealed that the number of tenants experiencing rent increases rose to the highest figure since August - compounded by an increasing number of landlords exiting the market.

ARLA found that 34% of agents witnessed landlords raising their rents during February compared to 26% in January - this is the highest figure recorded since August, when 40% of tenants had their rents increased, the highest on record.

Year-on-year, this figure is up 14%, from 20% in February 2018. In line with this, the number of tenants successfully negotiating rent reductions fell to 2.3%, from 2.5% in January.

In February, the number of landlords exiting the market rose to four per branch, after falling to three in January. This is up from three last February.

Demand from prospective tenants fell in February, with the number of house-hunters registered per branch falling to 65 on average, compared to 73 in January. The number of properties managed per branch remained at 197 in February, with no new properties coming onto the market.

David Cox, ARLA Propertymark Chief Executive, said: “According to data from the Office for National Statistics, private rent costs rose by one per cent in the year to February, and our data shows that the number of tenants successfully negotiating rent reductions fell. We warned this would happen, as landlords continue exiting the market and increasing legislation deters new ones from entering. The Chancellor’s Spring Statement included a number of initiatives aimed at growing housing stock for buyers, but it didn’t offer any solutions to increase the supply of properties in the private rented sector.

Unless the Government commits to making the prospect of investing in the PRS more attractive, and introduces measures to increase supply, tenants will only continue to feel the burn.”

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